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DeJongh Vetoes Act Allowing Legislature Access to Executive Branch Bank Accounts

Gov. John deJongh Jr. rejected allowing the Legislature access to executive branch bank accounts this week, saying it was a violation of the separation of powers and using his line-item veto to eliminate the requirement from an unrelated budget bill.

While vetoing that law, the governor restated his commitment to working with the Legislature, and told lawmakers members of his Financial Team are always available to provide information or answer questions, and have appeared regularly before the Legislature, according to a statement from Government House.

The banking information law was one of many unrelated amendments attached to a budget bill allowing the Health Department to use $3.9 million of its own revenues generated by fees for services to fund its own operations. DeJongh approved the original bill, providing funding to Health, but vetoed several of the amendment.

One amendment deJongh did not veto was a provision proposed by Sen. Usie Richards adopting measures of the Federal Motor Carrier Act. The change will allow some $350,000 in federal funds to remain in the territory, according to Government House.

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Other portions were vetoed because they were simply “inoperative,” the governor wrote Senate President Ronald Russell in his letter accompanying the bills that explains his actions.

He also vetoed a bill to increase the maximum cap on the out-of-court settlement of claims against the government for vehicular damages to $6,000 and mandating people who properly file claims automatically be awarded up to $6,000 in damages if payments are not made within a short window. Calling it a "flawed bill" deJong said he vetoed the bill for several reasons, including financial strains and a language “rife with internal and legal inconsistencies.”

DeJongh signed a law requiring automatic defibrillators at schools, dental offices and other facilities where children play sports. He also approved most of a bill to end a moratorium on building cell phone towers and clarifying the regulatory role of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources in licensing and regulating cell towers. But he denied a provision that would have required tower owners to allow the government free use of tower space, saying it would unconstitutionally allow the government to use private property without compensation.

The governor signed into law the Hotel Development Act of 2011, a hotel development program within the V.I. Economic Development Authority that’s similar to, but more generous than, the tax-increment financing (TIF) spearheaded by the deJongh administration in order to bring Home Depot to St. Croix.

Along with helping developers with information about financing, the program would have the EDA administer trust funds for each qualifying new development, placing hotel and casino taxes from the qualifying development into the fund, which would then be used to pay a portion of the developer’s loans.

As with the TIF program, the government loses no real revenue because the taxes that would go toward developers’ loan payments would not be owed the government at all if the projects they finance do not come to fruition. He line-item vetoed some portions of the bill.

By 2013, Virgin Islanders will be able to receive their income tax refunds by direct deposit thanks to another bill the governor signed into law. He also approved bills creating a Legislature’s Youth Council, creating the Division of Capital Projects within the Department of Public Works, clarifying the roles of the Director of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Police Commissioner, and clarifying a recently passed law regarding evidence and legal privileges in the territory’s courts.

DeJongh signed several honorific resolutions and joined the Legislature in applauding local athlete Kristepher Michael Tutein Elien, a 27-year-old Crucian tennis champion, and calypsonian and cultural ambassador Camille “King Derby” Macedon, who for decades has preserved the territory’s culture and musical heritage.

Bills honoring Emile Christopher Berry and Omar O. Brown Sr., two former firefighters who will have stations named in their honor, were also approved.

DeJongh also signed a series of bills to transfer money between various government funds.

“Inasmuch as these bills are all non-General Fund budget bills whose provisions are all germane to the relevant budget, they are approved,” deJongh wrote Russell.

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Gov. John deJongh Jr. rejected allowing the Legislature access to executive branch bank accounts this week, saying it was a violation of the separation of powers and using his line-item veto to eliminate the requirement from an unrelated budget bill.

While vetoing that law, the governor restated his commitment to working with the Legislature, and told lawmakers members of his Financial Team are always available to provide information or answer questions, and have appeared regularly before the Legislature, according to a statement from Government House.

The banking information law was one of many unrelated amendments attached to a budget bill allowing the Health Department to use $3.9 million of its own revenues generated by fees for services to fund its own operations. DeJongh approved the original bill, providing funding to Health, but vetoed several of the amendment.

One amendment deJongh did not veto was a provision proposed by Sen. Usie Richards adopting measures of the Federal Motor Carrier Act. The change will allow some $350,000 in federal funds to remain in the territory, according to Government House.

Other portions were vetoed because they were simply “inoperative,” the governor wrote Senate President Ronald Russell in his letter accompanying the bills that explains his actions.

He also vetoed a bill to increase the maximum cap on the out-of-court settlement of claims against the government for vehicular damages to $6,000 and mandating people who properly file claims automatically be awarded up to $6,000 in damages if payments are not made within a short window. Calling it a "flawed bill" deJong said he vetoed the bill for several reasons, including financial strains and a language “rife with internal and legal inconsistencies.”

DeJongh signed a law requiring automatic defibrillators at schools, dental offices and other facilities where children play sports. He also approved most of a bill to end a moratorium on building cell phone towers and clarifying the regulatory role of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources in licensing and regulating cell towers. But he denied a provision that would have required tower owners to allow the government free use of tower space, saying it would unconstitutionally allow the government to use private property without compensation.

The governor signed into law the Hotel Development Act of 2011, a hotel development program within the V.I. Economic Development Authority that’s similar to, but more generous than, the tax-increment financing (TIF) spearheaded by the deJongh administration in order to bring Home Depot to St. Croix.

Along with helping developers with information about financing, the program would have the EDA administer trust funds for each qualifying new development, placing hotel and casino taxes from the qualifying development into the fund, which would then be used to pay a portion of the developer's loans.

As with the TIF program, the government loses no real revenue because the taxes that would go toward developers' loan payments would not be owed the government at all if the projects they finance do not come to fruition. He line-item vetoed some portions of the bill.

By 2013, Virgin Islanders will be able to receive their income tax refunds by direct deposit thanks to another bill the governor signed into law. He also approved bills creating a Legislature's Youth Council, creating the Division of Capital Projects within the Department of Public Works, clarifying the roles of the Director of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Police Commissioner, and clarifying a recently passed law regarding evidence and legal privileges in the territory's courts.

DeJongh signed several honorific resolutions and joined the Legislature in applauding local athlete Kristepher Michael Tutein Elien, a 27-year-old Crucian tennis champion, and calypsonian and cultural ambassador Camille “King Derby” Macedon, who for decades has preserved the territory's culture and musical heritage.

Bills honoring Emile Christopher Berry and Omar O. Brown Sr., two former firefighters who will have stations named in their honor, were also approved.

DeJongh also signed a series of bills to transfer money between various government funds.

“Inasmuch as these bills are all non-General Fund budget bills whose provisions are all germane to the relevant budget, they are approved,” deJongh wrote Russell.